So, why do we at Sokol Vineyards prize the use of Hungarian Oak? There is a long history of Hungarian Tonnelleries and gorgeous oak craftsmanship supporting the development of premium red wines!
Oak from the Baltic States, Serbia and particularly Hungary was very highly prized by barrel makers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The oak species throughout a crescent-shaped area, ranging from northern Portugal up through France to the Baltic states and down through Hungary and Romania, belong to the Quercus petraea and Quercus robur families. Yet a good deal of diversity in flavor and structure is evident depending on the precise microclimate, soil structure and density in which the trees grow.
Traditionally, the oak of the Hungarian forests of the northeast was highly sought after by French coopers. The most notable quote comes from French Consul Billecoeq, who stated in 1849: “there is no such a good quality of wood as the one provided by the Romanian Principates”. The taste of French oak, now considered integral to the flavor of red Bordeaux, was not appreciated in Bordeaux’s traditional market in the early and mid-nineteenth century. Winemakers preferred the softer, smoother texture Hungarian oak offered their wines. The substitution of French oak for Baltic and Hungarian oak was prompted by political difficulties, including the Napoleonic wars.
The location of the oak says it all! As a result of the harsh growing conditions of the North Hungarian Range, the oak forests of Romania are composed almost exclusively of sessile oak or Quercus Petraea, literally translated as Oak of the Rocks. Winemakers understand the critical importance of terroir for wine. Coopers and oak researchers also understand how great differences can be between forest regions, even within the same country. For this reason, Kádár Tonnelliere sources oak from only one particular forest terroir, one with very unique and specific conditions for oak.
On the northern edge of the Danubian Basin lie the Inner Northern Carpathian Mountains, one of the youngest volcanic mountain range in Europe. The majority of Kádár oak grows in the North Hungarian Range particularly, in the Tokaj region. Composed of 1,500 extinct volcanoes ranging to 2,500 feet in elevation, the Tokaj Eperjesi Mountains are steep, rocky and cold. The continental climate of cold winters and dry summers combines with the steep slopes and the thin rocky soils of the young volcanic mountain range to produce Quercus Petraea oak that grows some 30% slower and denser than in other European oak forests.
Thus, our ‘best of the best” Hungarian oak barrel selection offers very similar flavors to French oak, but its most attractive characteristics include high aromatic concentration matched with low tannic content resulting in wines of complex aromas, enhanced fruit character with tension and brightness, and a soft, creamy mouth texture. Na zdravie! (cheers)
All images and video used with expressed permission of Kádár Hungary.